Although the final score didn’t matter—the New York Giants lost to the Carolina Panthers, 24-21—the only thing large about the Giants following Saturday night’s first preseason game were the question marks that still surround the team heading into the final three weeks of training camp.
Without Michael Strahan (pictured)—who mulled retirement somewhere far away from the Meadowlands where the game was played—the first-team defense looked in shambles. Carolina marched 81 yards on 13 plays in their opening drive to score a touchdown, and starting Panther running backs Deshaun Foster and Nick Goings shredded the Giants’ defense for a combined 112 yards on just 16 carries.
Sparsely used running back Derrick Ward did give the team a boost though, jolting a bit of speed and hope into the New York offense. In the first quarter, Ward returned a kickoff 67 yards to the Carolina 25, which set up a short scoring drive capped off by an Eli Manning seven-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey. Ward also contributed a 19-yard run from scrimmage and five-yard touchdown burst in the contest, giving fans optimism that maybe a combination of Brandon Jacobs, Reuben Droughns and Ward can replace the void that Tiki Barber’s early retirement has left.
But the defense was the story, showing no ability to slow down the Carolina offense, which is considered a decent, but certainly not great, offensive unit. “Opening up the preseason by letting the other team score a touchdown on their first drive is not good,” linebacker Antonio Pierce said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.” That, my friends, is a Giant understatement.